The poor have chosen their poverty, only the lazy are poor, work always pays handsomely and that life is predictable if one applies oneself…

As of last Wednesday, new rules for benefits claimants have come into practice, announced back when George Osborne was Chancellor of the Exchequer. They target the most vulnerable – as per standard Conservative Party practice – including the disabled, the long-term ill and the working poor. Also in characteristic Tory fashion, the changes will hurt women and children most via the new cap on the number of children eligible for child tax credits – and there is an extra sting in the tail for us in Northern Ireland.

These cuts are blatantly ideological in motivation, even when we take at face value the words of those Ministers who have gone before the media to defend them; they speak of getting people who want to work into work and making work more attractive. Of course this fails to account for the fact that very many of the cuts – particularly the cap on child tax credits – will hurt the working poor the most, that is to say those who already work, but whose salary fails to meet the cost of living. Many of the children currently living in poverty or using food banks are living in households where one or both parents work. The Government, however, want us to believe that those in poverty have chosen their lot in life, and so it suits them to sidestep this and imply that they are merely helping these poor – in both senses of the word – people to make better choices.

The choice to have more than two children is something they apparently see as only the prerogative of the better off, and so they are punishing those who have a third or subsequent child born after this week. There is absolutely no evidence that this policy will have the effect they want – not least because a large proportion of pregnancies are not planned, and even the best contraceptive methods are not perfect – but the realistic probability is that plenty of people will choose to have children even in the face these financial penalties. Blended families, more and more common, are punished too; the two child limit applies even to an individual who has had no previous children of their own but whose partner has children who are eligible. It also shows a limited understanding of the uncertainty of modern lives; jobs are lost, illness happens, partners die, partners leave. Even the comfortably well off family who has never needed to claim tax credits can suddenly find themselves struggling.  The only certain outcome is that more families will be driven into poverty.

The most controversial part of these cuts, and rightfully so, is the exception allowed to the two child limit which allows a claim for three children only if the child’s mother can prove that that child was conceived through rape. Copies of the 8 page form that has to be completed and witnessed in such a case have circulated online this week, and it’s as bad as it sounds. (1) Charities that work with victims have warned that completing such a claim may re-traumatise people, and that the stigma that will attach to a child that is declared a child of rape will damage the child, too. A claimant also has to sign a declaration that she does not live with the father of the child, which shows no understanding of the reality of abusive relationships and the fact that pregnancy is so often used as a method of control by abusive partners. (2)

For women in Northern Ireland, there is an additional worry. A unique feature of our law dating from the height of the Troubles requires any person aware of an offense to report it, so that if a woman claims tax credits on the grounds that she conceived through rape, but has not reported that crime to the police, she may herself be subject to prosecution (3) The same law will apply to the professionals she would need to witness such a form, and there is no guidance on how they should approach the situation, putting both victims and support staff in an impossible bind. As if that weren’t enough, our laws allow for abortion in only the most extreme circumstances of danger to a woman’s life, so what should a woman who finds herself with a crisis pregnancy do? If she cannot afford an abortion in Britain, she cannot afford to raise a third child without the assistance of child tax credit, and of course there is currently a crackdown on the safe but illegal abortion pills that many women in such a crisis buy online (4).

But the Conservatives do not care, apparently, about the mess these cuts and the tax credit cap will create. They are sticking firmly to their idea that the poor have chosen their poverty, that only the lazy are poor, that work always pays handsomely and that life is predictable if one applies oneself – and all while blithely ignoring the additional mess this creates in Northern Ireland. We must commit to doing everything we can to resist this fallacy, to protest these cuts, to support organisations that help women who are impacted by these changes, and to punishing at the ballot box those MPs whose votes allowed this to happen.

1: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/rape-clause-form-tax-credits-coercive-relationship-three-children-child-limit-a7669876.html

2: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/urge-government-reconsider-womens-aid-statement-two-child-tax-credit-policy/

3: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/06/tax-credit-rule-puts-northern-irish-women-in-legal-peril-charities-say

4: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/police-seize-100plus-packets-of-illegal-abortion-pills-in-raids-35570713.html

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  • Reader

    Elaine Coyle: The choice to have more than two children is something they apparently
    see as only the prerogative of the better off, and so they are punishing
    those who have a third or subsequent child born after this week.

    The better off tend to have fewer children. So it isn’t really a matter of keeping up with the Finkley-Smythes anyway.
    In any case, the child benefit system in the existing form is nowhere near enough to pay the full costs of raising a child. This change to the system will probably make quite a few 1st and 2nd children much better off by deterring the parents from having a 3rd, 4th, 5th.

  • Reader

    Elaine Coyle: A unique feature of our law dating from the height of the Troubles
    requires any person aware of an offense to report it, so that if a woman
    claims tax credits on the grounds that she conceived through rape, but
    has not reported that crime to the police, she may herself be subject to
    prosecution (3)

    This law has been in place for decades, and no-one has been prosecuted yet for being the victim of rape or abuse. And yet, in that time, dozens or hundreds of victims have come forward to report past attacks.
    Famously, the law is an ass. Seemingly however, the law is not that much of an ass.

  • Korhomme

    There are unpleasant echoes of the Victorian idea of the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ poor in all this.

    Further, these changes are driven by the ideology of ‘austerity’ which itself originates in the neo-liberal economics of Hayek and the Austrian school, with this being developed by Friedman and the Chicago school. Neo-liberal economics believes that ‘the market is always right’ and that only market forces should provide services. That is, the role of the state should be reduced as much as possible; services will come from private providers (who can be expected to make a fortune from them). And this then tends towards libertarianism and the ‘ideas’ of Ayn Rand.

  • Superfluous

    I’m pretty sure that Keynes was a fan of being austere during periods of growth and only applying fiscal stimuli during downturns (and aren’t we currently in a period of growth?). Friedman was in favour of social security benefits – including a negative income tax – or in today’s speak a Universal Income. He also believed in liberalising border controls and allowing migration as much as possible.

    This is the problem with economics – depending on what side of the political spectrum you sit you can cherry pick different bits of an overall theory that fit your already established world view (for instance try find a Leftist who wants to reduce the deficit during the growth times, or a self proclaimed Libertarian UKIPer who wants free movement).

    You claim that ‘Neo-liberal’ economics believes that the market is always right – which is false – modern liberal economics believe that a well functioning market is right, on the average (which means not always right, just more right than wrong over a big enough sample size) – and that allows plenty of room for non functional markets to appear (monopoly, oligopoly and markets with not enough information to function well). Even Piketty in his big friggin’ book couldn’t find a solution away from a market economy (no sensible economist could) – only blue sky ideas on global wealth taxes to try counteract the tendency for wealth to eventually move one direction in a market economy.

  • doopa

    Not true regarding the well off. The well off have larger families.

  • Brian O’Neill

    There does appear to be a free market solution to this issue. The poor can just sell each subsequent child.

    It is a modest proposal but one worth exploring https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Who do we sell our excess kids to? Has Madonna started shopping for loved ones in Norn Iron? The Brangelina household has its own issues to sort out.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Superfluous, much sense in that. I tend personally towards a Will Hutton assumption on markets, which is that there is no alternative to a market economy but obviously markets often produce bad results for people and therefore government’s job in complementing and making up for markets is necessarily rather major.

    It seems to me the Cameron government didn’t accept that and was ideologically attached to a kind of “market maximalism”. May, at least in theory, seems to have rowed back from that and accepts the state can’t sit back and expose people’s lives to raw market forces without massive damage to a lot of people and, probably the real motivator, losing a lot of support from the “just about managings”. And yet these benefit changes are going through which will hit the “working poor” particularly badly. Any views on this?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    any stats on that? May be right, I don’t know, but certainly goes against the received wisdom that average family size goes down in wealthier economies. But there could be big families at the very, very top countervailing that, I don’t know …

  • Brian O’Neill

    Well there is clearly export opportunities in this proposal. Maybe funding from InvestNI?

  • ruhah

    Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson nailed it- ‘Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.’

  • Croiteir

    If you have the choice to have the children do you assume the responsibility to pay for the choice?

  • Gavin Smithson

    Why should my taxes pay for looking after the feckless and irresponsible? If welfare
    Was for the pensioners and those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own that’s fine but not for the raw materials of the Jerry Springer show or it’s like in the U.K.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Unfortunately we don’t get to choose were our tax money is spent. If that were the case I would gladly give more to the poor as opposed to say spending 80 billion on the useless phallus that is the Trident Programme.

  • Elaine

    And if the parent(s) can’t meet that responsibility, what then? It seems a little contradictory to me to have a “pro life” stance but not to be willing to support that life in any way once a baby is born – not to mention defending that argument on the grounds that parenthood is a “choice”.

  • 05OCT68

    I thought countries with aging populations encourage and support an increased birthrate, these children will be paying our state pensions in future. The UK does not have a pension pot, whats taken in in contributions is payed out immediately to pensions.

  • Enda

    Spoken like a true middle class Brit.

    From some of your previous comments on another tread it seems you’d be happy enough for your taxes being spend on war though.

    You have great priorities sir.

  • Elaine

    You are probably right that prosecutions won’t happen, but they could, and that will be a deterrent to many. And how this will impact mandatory reporters is another issue.

    And I seriously doubt that 1st and 2nd children will see the proceeds of any saving in this, and those amounts have been frozen for years so parents of 1 or 2 are already experiencing a real terms reduction. The Tories have their spending priorities and children are nowhere near the top.

  • Reader

    Elaine: And I seriously doubt that 1st and 2nd children will see the proceeds of any saving in this, and those amounts have been frozen for years so parents of 1 or 2 are already experiencing a real terms reduction. The Tories have their spending priorities and children are nowhere near the top.
    None of this is anything to do with my point – If my mum and dad had a third child, the family would have had less money to spend on me and my brother. Child Benefit in any era would never have made up the difference, except perhaps in the grotesque situation where the third child subsists on child benefit alone!

  • 05OCT68

    Watched that documentary/propaganda “Warship” on C4 last night. Helicopter pilots practicing with missiles at £89000 each.

  • Korhomme

    I appreciate the satire, Brian…but, and without trying to be ‘heavy’…

    It’s not that long ago that there was a ‘free market’ solution here in Ireland. Mother and Baby homes ‘sold’ infants and children to rich Americans, something that may well not have been legal. Not quite ‘sold’, more an exchange for a substantial donation, and with the mothers being lied to and put under duress to sign their rights away.

  • Superfluous

    I think it’s a very complex problem to solve. I can remember my mother telling me that during negotiations on a pay rise her boss brought up the fact that her pay would be topped up by tax credits. In this regard, the tax payer is letting a rich person off on his responsibility to pay his own staff well – he is factoring her benefits in to his remuneration talks. How fair is that?

    The problem of course is that this an anecdote – not all rich people would pay more to their staff if the tax credits weren’t there. There certainly is a net percentage of that public money that actually goes to the people it was intended to (but there certainly is a percentage of it which subsidises bad employers).

    So what solution is there to keep the good part (money to the needy) and get rid of the bad part (subsidising bosses)? I don’t genuinely know one – but I know that with any solution I devise there will be innocent people caught up in it as collateral, and there will be cries on blogs like this about my new policy (in other words I can empathise with the difficult job politicans have in creating single policies which affect the masses)

    In saying all this – I think the child benefit curb (like the spare bedroom ‘tax’ before it) is far too blunt an instrument. It seems subjective in targeting the ‘fairness’ of subsiding people who make ‘bad’ life choices, rather than trying to solve an objective problem. It feels like it’s a visceral vote winner for the Daily Mail mob, rather than actually going to achieve anything substantial (in savings to the tax payer or in creating incentives for people to make better choices.) It just feels a bit nasty.

  • Surveyor

    Everyone pays some form of tax Gavin, even the unemployed, ever hear of VAT?

  • Elaine

    I see, I mistakenly thought you meant more money in the government’s pot, rather than in the parents’ purse. That seems intuitively true, but asI say in the article there is no evidence that this policy will make people stop t two children. Especially as a large percentage of pregnancies are not planned.

  • Korhomme

    That’s the trouble with economists, isn’t it? Put five score in a room together and you get 101 answers, all different. Marx did see the end of capitalism.

    Two further problem with the present government’s economics; firstly, the seem to think that the economics of a household is the same as that of a country, even though Osborne boasted of paying off the South Sea Bubble debt. That debt was 300 years old; even with the best credit history, no individual can get a loan for that long.

    Secondly, the effects of the tax and benefit changes is to make the less well off even poorer, and the better off even better off; an increase in inequality. Is this putting politics before sense or even compassion?

  • Enda

    It makes me feel ill that I contribute to this military charade.

    The UK gov are happy enough to spend billions on instruments designed to extinguish life, but not to help it in their own land.

    Power obsessed, elitist British warmongers the lot of them!

  • Reader

    I’m sure a lot of 1st pregnancies are unplanned. People tend to have got the hang of the idea by the time a third pregnancy comes around. Or a fourth.

  • johnny lately

    Isn’t the recent push to encourage migrants into western countries and for western countries to accept them an effort to increase our falling birthrate Brian, is it not fact that all empires fall due to lack of numbers, ie too many chiefs and not enough Indians an all that rather than any other factor so would it not be better for us to encourage our own people to have have more Indians rather than sell them off to others. And would it not be crazy and hypocritical to be allowed to sell our children but not our bodies for sex ?

  • Zorin001

    Which will get even worse post-Brexit as they cosy up even closer to the Saudis, the Philippines and other unsavoury regimes in a desperate attempt to hawk more military equipment to bring in the funds.

  • Elaine

    I don’t think you understand what I’m saying; no form of contraception is infallible. None. Are we now asking people with two children to be abstinent until the menopause lest their chosen method of contraception fail? Because sometimes it fails even when used perfectly.

  • Korhomme

    and however many billions HS2 will cost; the problem is not speed on the London-Birmingham line, it’s capacity and a bottle-neck near Brum. But ‘wealth creating entrepreneurs’ have waged a successful campaign for what they want to build, not what’s actually needed.

    So there’s 150 billion for starters.

    And if Brexit isn’t the amazing foundation for a new dynamic economy, we could save on the Third Runway as it won’t be necessary.

    That might pay for some Child Benefit (sorry, child tax credit).

  • john millar

    ” a percentage of it which subsidises bad employers”.

    Employers (apart from the public sector) will pay under main conditions

    1 What the law says is a minimum
    2 What they can afford
    3 What they have to pay to keep staff

    In the real world (outside the public sector) the factors above combine to produce wage rates

    I was involved in an operation where the combined factors produced a rate of £1 per block for bricklayers — post property crash the same bricklayers were getting 35/40p per block.

    The minimum /living wage rates have reduced hours and jobs in two small organisations where I have detailed knowledge

    Blaming employers in isolation for wage rates is ignorance.

  • john millar

    “Are we now asking people with two children to be abstinent until the menopause lest their chosen method of contraception fail? Because sometimes it fails even when used perfectly.”
    Nope we are just sayings its you decision- don`t expect you fellow citizens to help fund them.

  • john millar

    “It makes me feel ill that I contribute to this military charade.”

    If you live in deficit funded NI where more is spent than raised locally you contribute SFA to “this military charade”

  • Elaine

    Your comment makes no sense in the context of the reply I was replying to, which was about unplanned pregnancy. The key part there is the “un”.

    How can something be someone’s decision and unplanned at the same time? Unless you’re advocating for a change to our abortion laws as a means to square that circle.

  • Enda

    I live in Edinburgh.

  • john millar

    “How can something be someone’s decision and unplanned at the same time? ”

    Its simple – this may come as a surprise .The primary function of sex is procreation -Involvement in sex produces the risk of conception- even when contraception is used.
    This, as far as I am aware is a lesson promoted widely -particularly in schools. I believe that the risks of conception are widely understood.

    In these circumstances the state has agreed to provide support for the first 2 children only. Further children will not attract state support whether planned or unplanned.

  • Elaine

    So you’re saying that every decision to have sex is a decision to have a child, and so only those who can afford to raise many multiples of children should risk sex?

  • john millar

    “So you’re saying that every decision to have sex is a decision to have a child, and so only those who can afford to raise many multiples of children should risk sex?”

    Hardly- see above -Sex for pleasure/personal relationships or any other motive (tho I struggle here) brings the RISK of conception- reduced but not eliminated by contraception.

    You are free to have as much sex as you wish/can get. Bear in mind however -that the state will only support the first 2 children.

  • john millar

    Is Scotland in tax deficit land as well ?

  • Elaine

    Firstly, the idea that tax credits constitutes the state “supporting” the child is pretty funny. They aren’t very generous. Secondly what happens if, for example, a couple have two children but then have an unplanned pregnancy? Kiddo 3 just has to deal? Or what if a nice respectable middle class family who never needed help have 3 or more kids, but then one parent loses their job or dies, leaving them in need of help. Tough luck, again?

  • john millar

    What part of

    “Sex for pleasure/personal relationships or any other motive (tho I struggle here) brings the RISK of conception”

    and

    “You are free to have as much sex as you wish/can get. Bear in mind however -that the state will only support the first 2 children.”

    is unclear.

    The word is “RISK” written large. Again RISK

    The more children you have -the more pressure you will put on your (and the states) resources. Expecting to be supported in the results of your own choices is now limited to two children . Your choice and your cost if you produce more whether by accident or design

    “if a nice respectable middle class family who never needed help have 3 or more kids, but then one parent loses their job or dies, leaving them in need of help. Tough luck, again?”

    Have you never heard of insurance? One child less would pay a hefty premium> Choice Risk again

  • Elaine

    Thanks for the info, until now I had no idea you could insure against spousal abandonment or job loss – in the case of the latter I even foolishly thought that national insurance contributions towards the benefits budget was that insurance! Imagine my gratitude at being corrected. And so politely, too!

    By the way, the way you talk to total strangers with whom you disagree but who are being perfectly polite, is a reasonable indicator that yoir attitude will probably be it’s own protection against an overabundance of children.

  • john millar

    You have now added “Spousal abandonment” as an issue.
    Again a risk many took on launching relationships.

    I presume by then the risks /decisions on the Number of children are in the past. I further suppose that the CSA has pursued the errant spouse for funds.

    It is my further understanding that the proposed changes are not retrospective and can only affect future decisions/risks.

    “From 6 April 2017 support provided through Child Tax Credit will be limited for some new births – if you already have 2 or more children any subsequent children born on or after 6 April 2017 will not be eligible for further support. You can still receive a child element for more than 2 children if the children were born before 6 April 2017.”e.

    “national insurance contributions towards the benefits budget was that insurance”

    NICS have long since be subsumed into General taxation and its direct connection to benefits and pensions is no more.

    (It is possible to insure against job loss)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Could someone explain to me when should we cut an individual off?

    In arguments such as these everyone on the receiving end is depicted as a Daniel Blake type character. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahWgxw9E_h4

    This enrages me as there are no doubt Daniel Blake types but the reason for their mess is ultimately an overloading and exploitation of the system yet any attempt to remove abusers of the system results in outrage (and the pain of Daniel Blake).

    I used to have 3 jobs at the same time and I lived with people who did similarly. Materially speaking we were worse off than many locals who were diddling the brew for all it’s worth by the time we paid council tax and rent.
    Surely it stands to reason that benefits should be dependent on the local economy, job market and housing market?
    If someone has been unemployed for 20 years, well, maybe what they need is a bus ticket to somewhere with jobs. (Or time on the railway – if you are 5 years unemployed then you should do every weekend on the railway line, nightshift.People will be flocking to the employment centres after that…)

  • Elaine

    Any payslip I’ve ever had lists national insurance contributions seperately and it is my understanding (not entirely sure of this) that low earners who fall below the tax threshold still pay NI contributions.

    I know it’s not retroactive, it just seems obvious that the government are targettig current claimants and poorer folk who would be eligible. If they mean to target also the better off (but not themselves) and try to get everyone in the UK to stop after 2 kids then that is extremely worrying, extremely hypocritical and extremely shortsighted all at once.

    And I did not just add spousal abandonment. I listed it in the article right next to the fact that spouses die. You did read the article, didn’t you?

  • murdockp

    If the Northern Ireland Assembly could get its act together, there is enough waste in the system that can be stripped out and the savings redistributed to those who need it.

    Take free prescriptions, I find these offensive for my family and would happily give these up, take the pisstaking with DLA cars, if the spongers had their cars taken off them, the savings could result in people who are disabled and in genuine need receiving a payment that actually makes a difference to their lives.

    We all know that waste and fraud is a big problem in NI, but until this is addressed people in genuine need will not receive what they deserve to live their lives in dignity.

  • Korhomme

    Are we now asking people with two children to be abstinent until the menopause

    Back in the good old days, when contraception was illegal or not available, this is exactly what some couples* did. Might have prevented pregnancy, but at a significant psychological cost.

    *Dr Freud, for example

  • Elaine

    I suspect you’re right, and no doubt that damaged many relationships badly.
    Many others, of course, just had many more children than they could comfortably afford and “made do”. Which is what I suspect will happen now, and I think the government should be ashamed of themselves for taking the lowest road possible. Because all the people huffing and puffing about not having babies if you can’t afford them seem to be forgetting that their judgemental attitudes do not feed children. And that’s what we’re talking about here; hungry, cold, undernourished children.

  • Korhomme

    Its simple – this may come as a surprise .The primary function of sex is
    procreation -Involvement in sex produces the risk of conception- even
    when contraception is used. This, as far as I am aware is a lesson promoted widely -particularly in schools.

    This will come as a greater surprise; sex is necessary for procreation, but the primary function of sex is not procreation. The primary function is about ‘bonding’ and ‘relationship’, ‘comfort’ and possibly power.

    It is a religious dogma, an item of belief and faith, that the primary function of sex is procreation; this is not a biological view.

    If kids are being taught that sex is primarily for procreation (rather than recreation) they are being deliberately deceived and manipulated by those whose agenda isn’t neutral information but indoctrination.

  • Korhomme

    Agreed; I did a small piece here on Slugger yesterday about the ‘Law of unintended consequences’ yesterday, but concentrating on the problem reporting rape in NI. (See also my response a bit below/above in this thread.)

  • Elaine

    I read that! It was very good, really useful stuff. I had already completed this piece by the time yours went up, hence the overlap. But I think we need as many agreeing voices as possible on this. Plenty of folk do not seem to (or choose not to) get the implications of it.

  • john millar

    NICS ARE separately calculated the money disappears into government coffers There is no separate National Insurance Fund

    “the government are targettig current claimants and poorer folk who would be eligible”

    The rules on +2 children appear to apply to all

    “that low earners who fall below the tax threshold still pay NI contributions.”

    NICS are payable on earnings more than £5824 pa. There have been attempts to align the NICS and Tax thresholds but governments have been frightened by the loss of income involved.
    (NICS Income Tax and VAT are the big tax raising items)

  • Elaine

    The rules apply to all, but plenty of their own have more than two children, right? Because they’re independently wealthy and insulated from the kind of things that can financially devastate most people. So it rather seems as though they want to stop the less well off having more two children, while the wealthy can do as they please.

    And I understand that all tax revenue goes into one pot, so to speak. But they are designed as contributions we are making to ensure we are taken care of if we can’t contribute for a while. The clue is in the name.

  • Abucs

    If we reduced taxation by making government smaller then you would be free to do exactly that.

  • Croiteir

    we got a bite on the hook

  • Reader

    Elaine: …no form of contraception is infallible.
    A vasectomy is free, and damned near infallible. And it can be combined with other methods – “to be sure, to be sure” as the old punch line goes.
    And in any case, an accidental 3rd child is not a catastrophe – more of an incentive to be more careful in future. The changes to the benefits system are progressive that way…

  • john millar

    “The rules apply to all, but plenty of their own have more than two children, right? Because they’re independently wealthy and insulated from the kind of things that can financially devastate most people. So it rather seems as though they want to stop the less well off having more two children, while the wealthy can do as they please.”

    Some people are wealthier than others. Some people work harder are better qualified or just plain lucky or are born into wealthy social groupings. In these circumstances these “fortunates ” can afford as many children as they can fund.The idea that these “fortunates” make no demands on society is laughable.

    The world is ill divide. The lesson would appear to be in part at least to as my granny used to say “get an education work hard try to save for a rainy day ” another favourite aphorism was don`t depend on anyone else to support you” (tho that last was addressed to my sisters more than me I think)

    “And I understand that all tax revenue goes into one pot, so to speak. But they are designed as contributions we are making to ensure we are taken care of if we can’t contribute for a while. The clue is in the name.”

    National Insurance was initially a contributory system of insurance against illness and unemployment, and LATER also provided retirement pensions and other benefits.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Insurance

    Child support was originally provided via tax reliefs on earned income. These tax reliefs were discontinued and the support transferred to the “family allowance” system with the essential difference that these allowances were paid direct to the female partners involved.

    Government policy influences the nature and quantum of child support. I suspect that the present Government regards projected population levels for the UK as cause for concern and is taking steps to mitigate the potential increases

    (There are even organisations that suggest limits to human reproduction https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Limits_To_Growth)

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Many others, of course, just had many more children than they could comfortably afford and “made do”. Which is what I suspect will happen now..’
    You might well ask why so many people make do with only two children when they could easily afford more. There is a long-term problem for society in higher fertility among the chronically welfare dependent in that many of the resulting children will be a burden on society as a result of poor parental skills.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Or what if a nice respectable middle class family who never needed help have 3 or more kids, but then one parent loses their job or dies, leaving them in need of help.’
    Nice respectable middle-class people don’t usually remain jobless for very long and they also tend to make provision for such eventualities as premature death. I would argue that an exception should be made in the case of death: the whole point of these reforms should be to discourage the production of children who are bound to be a long-term burden on the state.Without such restraints it becomes a demand rather than needs-based system.

  • Elaine

    There is no exception for death though, or spousal abandonment, whether you’d argue for it or not. As for the employed/unemployed binary, as I’ve said in the article it is not as simple as that. At least half of the people impacted by this are in work right now. So redundancy or unemployment might result in a person getting work, but if their new job doesn’t pay as well as their previous job they might be in trouble.

    Trash television and newspapers like to imply that the people receiving this benefit are permanently and deliberately idle. That is just not true. I promise you know people receiving these benefits, and they probably work full time.

  • Elaine

    Oh please. Working full time at a blue collar jobdoes not make a person welfare dependent, and certainly not a bad parent.

  • Korhomme

    There is a long-term problem for society in higher fertility among the
    chronically welfare dependent in that many of the resulting children
    will be a burden on society as a result of poor parental skills.

    The root of the problem is education, or the lack of it; the lack of proper SRE (sex and relationship education) in schools or in the home. Those parents may never have had SRE or developed parenting skills, so it’s unsurprising that the kids begin with disadvantages from which it’s difficult to escape. The effects of this include ‘welfare dependency’, today’s term for the undeserving poor. It’s more of a vicious circle. It’s clear that kids who receive free school meals are discriminated against, and that it’s much harder for such kids to ‘get ahead’. There is even the idea that in past centuries there was considerable social mobility, but much less now. This is connected to ideas of the hereditary of intelligence, suggesting a sort of eugenics where the rich and successful remain in that position. This was posited over a century ago in HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’.

    Should then the children of these people starve or be disadvantaged because the state (we) won’t look for them? Do we really do our best for them in terms of education?

  • Old Mortality

    I can’t disagree with much of that but if we know that children in certain circumstances are going to be disadvantaged, possibly permanently, isn’t it better to have fewer of them? I am in favour of experimenting with a targeted, discretionary benefit for young women who are likely to be in such a position that would leave them no worse off than if they had a child up until say the age of 25.This benefit would be available irrespective of whether the recipient was in work or not, or even if they married well.

  • Elaine

    When I saw this reply, I dismissed you as a troll, but then I googled your username and found a Twitter profile that looks to fit the anti choice logo above. So you meant what you said, and have no answer to my point? Hilarious!

  • Old Mortality

    I’m not suggesting bad parenting is universal, but there is anecdotal evidence that standards are deteriorating. For example, teachers are pointing to the incidence of children reaching school age without having been properly toilet trained. That is in addition to the lack of elementary communication skills that many children are now reported to suffer from at that age.

  • Old Mortality

    I was taking issue with your suggestion that ‘nice middle-class people’ would suffer from these welfare restrictions.

  • Old Mortality

    Elaine, I have to ask if you are actually in favour of poorer people having as many children as they want and would even advocate encouraging them to do so.

  • Elaine

    If children are reaching the age of 4 and are not toilet trained that is surely neglect, not bad parenting. Communication issues is pretty vague and is hard to quantify, after all children have varying levels of ability and they are only 4 when start school. Anyway, none of that really seems to have anything at all to do with so-called welfare dependency. Plenty of middle class parents are less than stellar in terms of attentiveness, too.

  • Old Mortality

    The problem is many of them will not be contributing, and those who will be only after considerable extra expense to render them capable of doing so.

  • Elaine

    My point was that in many cases they surely would if they suddenly lost one income. The threshold to qualify for tax credits is a lot higher than you seem to be picturing (anecdotally when my husband worked full time as an AO in the civil service and I was not working and we had one child, we qualified). Many people with apparently decent jobs qualify right now.

  • Korhomme

    I’d guess that in given circumstances, fewer children might well be more advantaged (or less disadvantaged).

    A particular problem here in Ireland is that once pregnant a woman in ‘reduced’ financial circumstances who feels that a third (or whatever larger number) would be an intolerable burden, one that would severely impact on her mental health, can’t do much about it. The pregnancy may be unplanned or a ‘mistake’, but as abortion remains illegal she can’t do much about it here. (She could get the abortion pills on-line, but that’s illegal; she herself may not be able to afford the trip to England and the private fee for the procedure. [ASN do provide assistance; the woman must be aware of this option.])

    You can see that an ‘unwanted’ pregnancy and thus perhaps an ‘unwanted’ child isn’t a great start to life.

    Your idea of a targeted benefit to young women might help; it’s the sort of idea that needs to be ‘fleshed out’ to try to see the pros and any cons.

  • Reader

    Elaine: If children are reaching the age of 4 and are not toilet trained that is surely neglect, not bad parenting. Communication issues is pretty vague and is hard to quantify, after all children have varying levels of ability and they are only 4 when start school.
    Neglect is a form of bad parenting. Speak to experienced primary school or nursery teachers: both issues are getting worse. I wouldn’t put it down to welfare though. Too many other distractions for the parent in contact. Engaging with toddlers is much less fun than twitter and foxy-bingo, apparently.

  • Elaine

    What? Who is encouraging people to have babies now?

    Here’s what I think; before any of these reforms make sense we need an absolute overhaul of sex and relationship education (SRE) starting from a young age (age appropriate of course) and with no religious dogma associated whatsoever. Contraception should be free, and doctors should endeavour to make sure that individual women can find one that works best for them, while young men should be encouraged to educate themselves on the subject too, and to take equal responsibility for whatever method his partner uses. We need free, safe and legal abortion for whoever needs it, as and when they need it.

    Then, the government need to stay out of people’s family arrangements. Nobody has a baby to get £13.70 a week. Babies cost more than that. So if they are having more than two babies, it’s not so that they can buy gold plated jetskis on £13.70 a week. They should try spending a bit more money on community projects, women’s centres which are being closed left and right, and sure start centres so that people can afford childcare when working lower paid jobs. Then, make sure that everyone gets a living wage, so that work pays well enough that the government don’t need to top up with tax credits. Then they could think about focusing less on the pennies that this represents and more on the untold billions large corporations owe in tax. Oh and maybe when cuts “have to” be made start with millionaire pensioners and expats who get the winter fuel allowance to heat their Spanish villas.

  • john millar

    Please read the rest if my comments

    Particularly

    “Hardly- see above -Sex for pleasure/personal relationships or any other motive (tho I struggle here) brings the RISK of conception- reduced but not eliminated by contraception.”

  • Korhomme

    It’s clear that pregnancy occurs after a single act of intercourse.

    However, human sexual reproduction is very inefficient. It takes, on average, 30 acts of intercourse to result in a pregnancy.

  • Croiteir

    What is hilarious Elaine is your inability to see what that the post was actually pointing out. Now read it again and see if you can get it this time.

  • pravinvarma

    “therefore government’s job in complementing and making up for markets is necessarily rather major.”
    except you are begging the conclusion here. there is no reason to believe that the govt must or can fix the ills of the market .

    people whose major qualification is winning a popular vote are not exactly incentivized to come up solutions which the market -which is nothing but a trial and error process with success and failure as feedback- cannot.
    politics without the romance please.